This article was medically reviewed by Kristen Gradney, MHA, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and member of the Preventive Medical Review Board, in August 2022.
There are so many supplements on the market that claim to be the best and provide the most important benefits. With so many super vitamin options to choose from, finding the right one for your regular regimen can be a journey. The benefits of fish oil, however, may be worth considering for the improvement of your health, and they can be found in supplements as well as certain foods in your diet.
We spoke with Melissa Prest, CDN, RDN, National Media Spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and members of Preventive Medical Councilto give you all the expert insight into the benefits of fish oil.
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What is fish oil? What foods contain fish oil?
Fish oil is fat or oil extracted from fish tissue. Usually comes from oily fish such as herring, tuna, anchovies, trout, salmon, and mackerel. It is also produced from the liver of other fish, as is cod liver oil.
It American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (especially fatty fish) per week. One serving is 3 ounces cooked, or about 3/4 cup flaked fish. Fatty fish such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, black cod, salmon, sardines, bluefin tuna, milkfish, whitefish, striped bass and cobia are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
However, if you don’t regularly eat 2 servings of this type of fatty fish per week, taking a fish oil supplement can help you get enough omega-3s. But not all fish oil is created equal.
When you’re ready to shop for fish oil supplements, nutritionists recommend looking for brands that are properly labeled, transparent about the source of origin, and made from sustainable fisheries. But before you buy, here’s everything to know.
What are the nutritional benefits of fish oil supplements?
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids usually in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), vitamin A, and vitamin D. While research continues to reveal more and more ways fish oil can be important to our health, here are some of the strongest claims on the good work of super supplements.
Supports Heart Health
According to American Heart AssociationResearch has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Research also shows that fish oil may also provide the following benefits:
- Increased cholesterol levels. It can increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels and can also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
- Triglycerides decreased. Can lower triglycerides by 15-30%.
- Reduced blood pressure. Even in small doses, it helps reduce blood pressure in people with high levels.
- Plaque prevention. This can prevent plaque that can cause arteries to harden, as well as make arterial plaque more stable and safer in those who already have it.
Although fish oil supplements may increase many risk factors for heart disease, there is no clear evidence that they can prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Supports Brain Health
Your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and most of this fat is omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3 is very important for a typical body The function of brain. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential for normal brain function and development at all stages of life.
Omega-3s are essential for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. These fatty acids maintain the health of cell membranes and facilitate communication between brain cells.
These fatty acids have also been shown to have an important role in the development of the baby’s brain. Lots studies have correlated fish or fish oil intake of pregnant women with higher scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood.
Supports Eye Health
Unlike your brain, your eyes also rely on omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil has many benefits, both for developing vision and maintaining eye health at any age.
Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet tend to be at greater risk for eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration.
Inflammation is your immune system’s way of fighting infection and treating injuries. In fact, if you suffer from chronic inflammation that doesn’t go away on its own, it can lead to more serious health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease.
Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and studies have shown that it can help treat conditions involving chronic inflammation.
Reduce Liver Fat
Your liver processes most of the fat in your body and often results in weight gain.
Given the rising rates of obesity in the US, liver disease is also becoming more common—especially nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), in which fat builds up in your liver.
Studies have shown that fish oil supplements can improve liver function and inflammation, which can help reduce NAFLD symptoms and the amount of fat in your liver.
In addition to all these important health effects, “several studies have demonstrated the benefits of taking fish oil for pain relief with rheumatoid arthritis, and prevention” Alzheimer’s disease and dementia“explained Prest.
Who can benefit from taking fish oil supplements?
If it’s hard to get good sources of fish and seafood once to twice a week, fish oil supplementation may be appropriate, says Prest.
ut with any kind of supplement or medication, there are a select few who should proceed with caution.
Perst warns that “taking fish oil and anticoagulant medications, commonly known as blood thinners, should be avoided because fish oil will decrease your ability to form blood clots making you prone to bleeding.” In addition, he warns that higher doses of fish oil can raise glucose, so talk to your provider if you have diabetes to see if it’s appropriate for you to take fish oil supplements.
Since these products are generally derived from fish products, people with allergies to fish or fish products should also consult a doctor before taking fish oil supplements.
Are there any side effects from taking fish oil supplements?
One of the biggest complaints people have with consuming fish oil is belching that tastes like fish, says Prest. “You can limit this by starting with small doses and taking fish oil with your largest meal of the day. Most side effects have been reported with higher doses, so start small and increase the dose slowly.” Other side effects include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, and upset stomach.
Prest’s final word of warning is to check the supplement label to make sure the fish oil has been tested for heavy metals like mercury, as this can cause further health problems.
So, if you are interested in trying a super supplement for yourself, nutritionists recommend starting with a reasonable dose, 1 capsule a day with food. If you are currently on blood thinners, have diabetes, or have a fish allergy, consult your doctor before adding fish oil to your vitamin list.
Dietary supplements are products intended to supplement the diet. They are not drugs and are not intended to treat, diagnose, reduce, prevent, or cure disease. Be careful about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, be careful about giving supplements to children, unless recommended by their healthcare provider.
Madeline, Prevention‘s assistant editor, has a history with health writing from her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD, and from her personal research at university. He graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience—and he helped strategize for success around the world. Preventionsocial media platforms.